“ゆりかごの歌” William W. Spearman IV, from the album “Beautiful Japanese Songs” (2006)
For the last little while, I have been thinking about stress and disposition, over hot coffee, and amongst friends and allies, all the while acknowledging that congeniality and a relative absence of turmoil and emotive stress are required to consider honestly any life situation involving said turmoil and stress.
I have been considering the difference between doing, or not doing the required “right thing” which you are handed by circumstances and the exigencies of daily life. Between saying and not saying whatever comes to mind as one finds oneself yet again troubled by the unrest resulting from the ill considered actions and sayings of others.
As Bill the Bard famously wrote: “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them”. I rather suspect folks have thinking these thoughts for a long long time.
I think the question of doing or not doing is pretty much settled, at least for me. Of course we “do the right thing” regardless of how we feel about it personally, sometimes we even manage to do it to the extent that we choose to make major personal sacrifices to do the right thing. All well and good. Doing “the right thing” is the important thing.
But my personal jury is still out deliberating over “saying” or “not saying”. Adapting ourselves to the mentalities, preferences and needs of others proves to be a real obstacle to doing the right thing with good will. We give ourselves a free pass to say whatever comes to mind because “the other” is wrong, rude, ungrateful, malicious, stupid, they don’t understand, they never learn … the excuses we use to heal our self image and justify our bad behaviour are endless.
We choose to insist upon our personal feelings, our point of view, our own tastes, instead of resolving to overlook all the differences of temperament, mentality, education, experience, tastes and so on.
Putting ourselves as the service of the other with a genuine and sincere spirit of humility in all things would short circuit the hard wired reactions of resentment, anger, judgement, and general dissatisfaction with the “moronic” conduct of others which lack of consideration and foresight leads to all the problems and crisis of daily life, our “Calvary”.
So how can one reasonably transition from anger, resentment, thirst for personal justice and fairness, wake up and smell the coffee, people, the all encompassing general irritation with the idiosyncrasies and idiocy of those around us who are continually screwing with our otherwise peaceful pleasant lives by their self-centered, narcissistic, ill-considered, defecation on the carpet of life?
How can one transition from pride and arrogance to humility and peace?
“早春賦”, William W. Spearman IV, from the album “Beautiful Japanese Songs” (2006)
It strikes me today that that place of transition, that no-man’s land between anger and arrogance and peaceful humility, may well be entered into by Mark Manson’s “Subtle art of not giving a F***”. As he says in his book (swapping the F-bomb for “damn”):
“Look, this is how it works. You’re going to die one day. I know that’s kind of obvious, but I just wanted to remind you in case you’d forgotten. You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon.
And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of damns to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a damn about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice—well, then you’re going to get damned.
There is a subtle art to not giving a damn. And though the concept may sound ridiculous and I may sound like an idiot, what I’m talking about here is essentially learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively—how to pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on finely honed personal values.
This is incredibly difficult. It takes a lifetime of practice and discipline to achieve. And you will regularly fail. But it is perhaps the most worthy struggle one can undertake in one’s life. It is perhaps the only struggle in one’s life.
Because when you give too many damns—when you give a damn about everyone and everything—you will feel that you’re perpetually entitled to be comfortable and happy at all times, that everything is supposed to be just exactly the damned way you want it to be.
Manson, Mark. “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (pp. 13-14). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
The fault zone, the rift valley, between the tectonic plate of self-righteous anger and resentment and the neighboring undiscovered country of peaceful meekness and humility in all things is so huge as to be difficult to apprehend and consider crossing without some kind of mountain pass or transition zone.
I am thinking that perhaps that philosophical mountain pass is in fact exactly what Mark is talking about: “pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on finely honed personal values”.
Not only “what matters to me” but leap to “What Matters”! In this metaphorical mountain pass we can pick off daily bites of climbing which our limited abilities make doable.
Considering the entire fault zone as one huge challenge to “leap at a single bound!” puts us in the position of having to be “Tony Stark“ in our Iron Man flying power armor. We are going to fail, come up short, confirm just what a screw-up we really are, in short turn our struggle into a self fulfilling prophecy of failure and misery.
Then, as a newly realized, miserable failure, we are tempted to indulge in : … F***ing things up in at least one of two ways: 1. “Denial”. Some people deny that their problems exist in the first place. And because they deny reality, they must constantly delude or distract themselves from reality. This may make them feel good in the short term, but it leads to a life of insecurity, neuroticism, and emotional repression.
And 2. (a real biggy) “Victim Mentality”. Some choose to believe that there is nothing they can do to solve their problems, even when they in fact could. Victims seek to blame others for their problems or blame outside circumstances. This may make them feel better in the short term, but it leads to a life of anger, helplessness, and despair.
People deny and blame others for their problems for the simple reason that it’s easy and feels good, while solving (personal behaviour) problems is hard and often feels bad.
So, these days I am strongly leaning towards “daily bites of climbing” which are doable with our limited resources and God’s help. The other part of this challenge is the understanding that we are unlikely to be successful in attaining peaceful, humble, meekness in any degree of perfection. This is a daily ongoing battle – failing and getting up again and trying again.
No matter how much we may seem to have failed, the climb is all about never giving up and always starting again with renewed commitment. This is all that matters, it is an effort of the will, it is not emotional, and there are precious few consolations along the way. The emotional danger of feeling that all our time and effort is wasted is what tempts us to give up in our effort.
Our ordinary notion of progress does not serve us well in this climb, for it will often appear that we spend more time failing than succeeding, and in that we lose site of the fact that the climb is all about trying and never giving up.
At least that is how it seems to me these days.
Never Give Up, Never Give Up, Never Give Up …